The prospect of the country’s biggest Islamic party being disqualified from next year’s elections should corruption allegations against it prove to be true has sparked a debate among observers.
Tama Satrya Langkun, a researcher with Indonesia Corruption Watch, has argued that the Prosperous Justice Party (PKS) could be disbanded if it was proven that some of its funding came from activities tainted by graft.
ICW points out that under Article 7 of the 2010 Anti-Money Laundering Law, political parties can be considered corporations and can have their permits revoked or suspended if found to have engaged in money laundering.
However, Ray Rangkuti, the director of the Indonesian Civic Network (LIMA), argued that there was nothing in the statutes calling for a party to be disbanded over corruption allegations.
He said there were currently only three reasons why a party could be dissolved: for propagating secessionist sentiments, for propagating communism or atheism, or if it chose to disband itself.
“Beyond those three reasons, political parties can’t be broken up,” Ray said in Jakarta on Sunday.
“In the case of allegations that the party has received graft-tainted money, the most that can happen is that [individual candidates] are barred from elections. A party as a whole can’t be broken up because of the actions of its individual members.”
Allegations of corruption by the PKS have mounted since late January, when the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) uncovered an alleged plot by the party’s then-president, Luthfi Hasan Ishaaq, to demand kickbacks from a local company to help it win a lucrative government contract to import beef.
Since then, the KPK has identified billions of rupiah worth of assets collected by Luthfi and an aide, Ahmad Fathanah, and highlighted the possible laundering of the bribes through the party’s own cash flow.
Ray said Lima and other activist groups were lobbying for new regulations to dissolve a party if its top officials were convicted of corruption or if it were involved in laundering graft-tainted money.
“For instance, if the chairman, secretary general or treasurer is convicted of corruption, then the party should be punished by not being allowed to participate in the next election or two,” he said.
PKS officials argued, however, that if such rules came into force, then they should apply first and foremost to the ruling Democratic Party.
Fahri Hamzah, a PKS deputy secretary general, said on Saturday that there was no doubting the extent of the corruption among Democrats, given how many of their top officials had been charged with or convicted of graft since last year.
“If you want to investigate, start with SBY,” he said, referring to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the Democrat chairman and chief patron.
“It’s obvious where the money flows. All the witness statements have made that clear. So if any party should be suspended, the Democratic Party should be first.”
Muhammad Nazaruddin, the Democrat treasurer, was convicted last year of involvement in a bid-rigging case linked to the contract to build an athletes’ village for the 2011 Southeast Asian Games.
Since then, he has leveled allegations of graft against other senior party colleagues, including Angelina Sondakh, a legislator who was jailed in January in a separate bid-rigging case; Andi Mallarangeng, who resigned as the sports minister last December after being charged in another rigging case; Anas Urbaningrum, who was deposed as the party chairman in February after being named a suspect in the same case as Andi; and Siti Hartati Murdaya, a party patron and Yudhoyono’s chief financier, who was convicted in February of bribing a district chief.
Fahri denied that any of the bribes allegedly paid to Luthfi had ended up in the PKS coffers, and insisted that the party would not be deterred by the mounting graft allegations.
Nasir Jamil, a PKS legislator, criticized ICW for proposing that the PKS be shut down if the graft allegations were found to be valid.
“You think we don’t know the law on political parties? We’re the ones who made the law. The ICW’s statement is the kind of thing someone would say if they’ve been sleeping for a long time,” he said.
He added that even if Luthfi were eventually convicted of corruption, it would be his personal responsibility and would not reflect on the party.
“If we went with ICW’s logic, then every government office and agency would have to be closed because of their officials’ involvement in corruption,” Nasir said.